Samsung Galaxy Tab Active Pro review: Rugged, affordable tablet built for work in the field

While the Apple iPad leads the tablet market, enterprise customers often need something built to handle work outside the office. The new Samsung Galaxy Tab Active Pro brings a larger display, improved specifications, and integrated Samsung DeX at a price of $599.

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With an inspection team working in a shipyard in Florida, they asked me to provide a tablet they could take out in the yard loaded with drawings to verify fabrication elements. I purchased a Galaxy Tab Active2 and the team has been enjoying the capability of this rugged eight-inch tablet.

After using it for a year, there are a couple of things the team would like to see in the next version. The requests included a larger display, longer battery life, and better connectivity to the PC. Samsung must have been tapping my conversations with my team as they announced the Galaxy Tab Active Pro at the Samsung Developer Conference in October.

There are several ways that the Galaxy Tab Active Pro is better than the iPad, especially for use in the field, including IP68 dust/water resistant rating, MIL-STD 810G shock/drop resistant rating, user-replaceable battery, Samsung DeX desktop mode, full mouse/trackpad support, and expandable storage.

Also: Samsung Galaxy Tab Active2 review: Rugged Android tablet built for business in the field

Galaxy Tab Active Pro specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 processor
  • Display: 10.1 inch, 1920 x 1200 pixels resolution LCD
  • Operating system: Android 9 Pie with One UI
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 64GB internal with microSD expansion card slot
  • Cameras: 13 megapixel rear and 8 front-facing camera
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz), Bluetooth 5.0, LTE option available
  • Dust/water resistance: IP68 with MIL-STD 810G ruggedness
  • Battery: 7,600 mAh user-replaceable
  • Audio: Four speakers tuned by AKG with Dolby Atmos technology
  • Dimensions: 243.5 x 170.2 x 9.9 mm and 653 grams

An S Pen comes with the Galaxy Tab Active Pro, but it is nothing like what we see with the version for the Galaxy Tab S6. This large, lightweight S Pen slides into the included rugged case and has the appearance of a large spike. It does not have an included battery and there is no Bluetooth Air Action functionality.

There is no keyboard option, but there are POGO pins on the bottom for expanding the use of the tablet. A good quality case is included in the package and is essential for holding the S Pen and helping protect the tablet.

Also: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 review: As good as Android tablets get CNET

Hardware

The Galaxy Tab Active Pro is not a sleek, stylish tablet that is designed to compete with the iPad or the Galaxy Tab S6. It is built for business and is designed for an optimal field experience.

The tablet has a 10.1 inch display and while it is not a Samsung OLED panel it still looks great and gets the job done. It is optimized for landscape use with the default display in landscape orientation, the front-facing camera centered above the display in landscape, and three physical buttons for task manager, home, and back under the display. These physical buttons are nice additions for working in the field where gloves are often worn.

Power, volume, and a customizable active key (colored red) appear along the top when in landscape orientation. Speakers are found on both sides of the tablet. A USB-C port and a 3.5mm audio jack are positioned on the right side. POGO pins are on the bottom with plenty of connected accessory options for the enterprise.

Also: Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 review: An Android tablet built for business

There is a single camera centered along the top of the back. Nearly the entire back panel is removable with a seal present around the back of the internals. A very large 7,600 mAh battery takes up much of the back with a reported 15 hours of battery life. The microSD card and SIM card slots are found under this removable back cover.

Software

The Galaxy Tab Active Pro runs Android 9 with One UI 1.5. The review unit has the 1 October 2019 Android security patch. It would be nice to see new devices running the latest version of Android, but it is pretty typical for these tablets to lag phones with firmware.

There are a few Samsung and Microsoft apps installed on the Tab Active Pro, including Outlook, OneDrive, Office Mobile, Bixby, Samsung Internet, Gallery, Smart Things, Messages, and Calendar. We find many more apps on Samsung phones out of the box so it's nice to see just a minimal number here on this WiFi edition Tab Active Pro.

Bixby can be setup to launch with a press and hold of the power button or via voice. I've written a few times about the benefits of Bixby and continue to believe this service offers more than people give it credit for. Bixby Routines are supported and after attending last fall's Samsung Developer Conference, there is quite a bit of work being done with Bixby capsules.

While the Tab Active Pro functions as a fully capable Android tablet, it really shines when you enable the native DeX mode. Unlike the Note 10 devices, and the Galaxy Fold, Samsung has two modes of DeX on its tablets. You can flip the switch, present in the Quick Actions area, to turn on DeX right on the Tab Active Pro itself. You can also enjoy a DeX experience when you connect an external monitor.

With DeX enabled, the icons all appear smaller and the same DeX interface you may be used to on an external monitor is present right on the tablet display. There is still some work to be done here though as the multi-tasking experience appears to be broken when DeX is enabled. In standard Android mode you go to the task switcher, tap the app icon over the thumbnail, and then choose to open the first app up in split-view mode. You then open the next app in pop-up view and move things around for multi-app use.

In DeX mode, the desktop is treated more like a computer where you have to manually move and resize windows using the S Pen, your finger, or the trackpad. It doesn't even support the drag and drop to the edges for multi-window view like we see in Windows, Chrome OS, and iOS. It's great to see an option for DeX on the tablet, but there is still work to be done.

Enterprise Firmware Over-The-Air (E-FOTA) and Knox integration is present to fully support business use.

Price and availability

The Wi-Fi model Samsung Galaxy Tab Active Pro is available now for $599.99. Business customers can also save more by purchasing multiple units, including saving up to $30 per unit with 16-25 unit purchases. The SIM unlocked LTE model starts at $679.99 with block unit pricing lowering unit price to $645.99 for 16-25 tablets.

Daily usage experiences and conclusions

I used the Galaxy Tab Active Pro in the snowy mountains and rain-drenched forests of Washington, along with the sandy beaches of Florida, and it performed flawlessly. While it has a mid-range processor, less RAM and internal storage than Samsung flagships, and basic LTE support I never had an issue using any apps for work. The price is reasonable and the tablet helps you get work done in the field.

While you can wrap your iPad in a rugged case and hope that protects it from damage, it's tough to beat what Samsung is offering here with the Galaxy Tab Active Pro. It is built to withstand environmental conditions, has a large usable S Pen, incorporates a battery that will go all day with the ability to swap it out for another battery and continue working for days, and employs Samsung DeX for a PC-like experience on the go.